On the afternoon of Friday, March 29, when The Korova co-owner Angel Castorena posted a message on Facebook warning that he’d soon make “a big announcement,” some hoped to hear what they’ve been waiting a long time for: “We have a new sound system at the Korova!”
That was wishful thinking. Instead, the announcement was that Castorena and partner Andre Esprenger would now manage the booking and bar at Limelight, the St. Mary’s strip staple that for the last few months had been under the management of Scott Andreu and E.J. Preston and fleetingly renamed as War Room. Or was it?
On a strictly legal basis, Limelight never stopped being Limelight, and Casey Lange its sole owner through his property holding company Santos Holdings Inc. Castorena and Esprenger will manage and book the place immediately, but the official paperwork won’t be finalized until May. Hopefully this time the deal will go smoothly, unlike the Limelight/War Room transaction.
Even though the short-lived War Room-era ended fairly amicably, its demise was also messy. Andreu and Preston’s deal was to lease the space and also make payments toward purchasing the liquor license and equipment (valued at $15,000). They stopped paying rent in the beginning of March, after hitting a major roadblock when the Texas Alcoholic Beverages Commission told the parties that there was a problem with the way the paperwork had been filed.
“They informed us that because of missing a step in the process, the bill of sale was considered unlawful,” Preston told the Current. “What Yvette Price [TABC’s Regional Licensing Supervisor] told us was that they had an employee that was retiring and who, basically, mentally checked out. But the TABC never harassed us and were eager to work with us.” (Price didn’t respond to the Current by press time.)
Andreu, however, was not that eager. When it came the time to redo the paperwork, he changed his mind about War Room and decided to walk away from the whole deal.
“After I went over the numbers and what it would take to run the place, I decided it wasn’t something I wanted to do,” he told the Current. He will now concentrate on his growing Texas is Funny Records label. “Sometimes you do business and things just don’t work out.”
According to Preston, Lange had asked the partners to remain as managers until all this could be resolved, something Lange supposedly ratified even after Andreu left. (Lange didn’t want to be quoted for this article, but disputes Preston’s version of events.)
What no one denies is that on March 25, when Preston (who was still on the payroll as an employee) went to pick up the deposit for the day, the locks at Limelight had been changed and he couldn’t get in. He called Lange, who said he had taken full responsibility for the venue.
“I didn’t want to bicker or anything,” said Preston. “All I wanted was to help keep the doors open and the shows alive. All three of us were poorly advised due to a lack of knowledge. The only thing that bothered me was being locked out without notice…. not such a big deal, but it’s kind of weird.”
Two days later, at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27, Castorena’s phone rang —Limelight was up for grabs again. Other venues like the aurally excellent 502 Bar had passed on it, and Castorena — who had always wanted to have a presence on the St. Mary’s strip — saw this as a golden opportunity.
“We were very aggressive trying to make a deal as soon as possible,” Castorena told the Current. “The strip is undergoing a sort of revival and we want to be part of it.”
First order of business for Limelight is to reinstate the name (“I love that name, it has a lot of history,” says Castorena) and to — get this — improve its sound system. Last weekend a new P.A. was expected, and in about four to six weeks Limelight will have “a sound system very similar, if not identical, to what 502 Bar has,” said Castorena.
That statement raises eyebrows around the Current, at least, as the Korova’s own supposedly-new sound system leaves a lot to be desired. (We recently cringed during a set by Chelsea Light Moving, fronted by rock royal Thurston Moore, in which a hot mic repeatedly shocked him and he spent a good 10 minutes explaining his band’s basic sound needs, only to give up in frustration, saying, sarcastically, something to the effect of ‘sure, that sounds awesome.’) One wonders why they don’t put the effort and money toward improving what they already have downtown.
“This opportunity was too good to pass,” said Castorena, who plans to keep booking both properties for the long term. “Some shows are not suitable for the Korova and we needed an alternative, and now we have one.”
Suitable or not, for whatever reason the Korova seems to have a momentum. Case in point, early March’s Chelsea Light Moving show, Black Flag’s impending May date, and the quality acts regularly visiting the place, turning the Korova into a giant, ugly-sounding roach that survives everything and refuses to die.
Castorena admits that the Korova’s sound system needs improvement, but claims the problem is the place itself.
“We had people from Alamo Music and others come and take a look, and one thing I keep hearing is not so much about the sound system, but about the curtains and windows, they have to be thicker,” Castorena said. “What we have there is more for décor, not so much for sound.” No shit.
“We’re all for constructive criticism,” he continued, “we’re willing to give people what they need, but a lot of times it’s just better for people and bands and critics to communicate, to tell us what they need.”
It’s very simple: All we want is to be able to hear the music and the words.
“Fair enough,” he said, then switched the topic to changes he looks forward to incorporating at Limelight, such as promoting local shows on the marquee instead of just the big national acts.
Let’s all cross our fingers for a quick improvement in the Korova’s sound. If it doesn’t happen, don’t despair — we’ll always have Limelight.